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close this bookWhere Women Have No Doctor - A Health Guide for Women (Hesperian Foundation, 1997, 600 p.)
close this folderChapter 14: Infertility (When You Are Not Able to Have a Baby)
close this folderWhat Causes Infertility?
View the documentInfertility in a man
View the documentInfertility in a woman

Infertility in a man


The main causes of infertility in a man are:

1. He does not produce enough sperm. Or his sperm may not be able to swim to the woman’s tubes or to fertilize the eggs.

2. He had mumps after puberty that harmed his testicles. When this happens, the man can still climax (ejaculate), but the liquid that comes out has no sperm in it.

3. His sperm cannot leave his penis because he has scars in his tubes from a past or present sexually transmitted disease (STD).

4. He has a swelling of the veins in his scrotum (varicocele).

5. He may have problems during sex because:

· his penis does not get hard.
· his penis gets hard but does not stay hard during sex.
· he has a climax too quickly, before his penis is deep in the woman’s vagina.

6. Illnesses such as diabetes, tuberculosis, and malaria can all hurt a man’s fertility.

Infertility in a woman

¨ Infertility caused by infection can be prevented.

Infertility in the woman

1. blocked tube

2. ovary does not produce an egg

3. fibroids

The main causes of infertility in a woman are:

1. She has scarring in her tubes or inside her womb. Scarring in the tube can prevent the egg from moving through the tube, or the sperm from swimming to the egg. Scarring in the womb can prevent the fertilized egg from attaching to the wall of the womb. Sometimes a woman gets scarring but does not know it because she does not feel ill. But years later she learns she is infertile.

Scarring can be caused by:

· an infection from an untreated STD that goes up into the womb or tubes (pelvic inflammatory disease or PID).

· unsafe abortion or problems in childbirth that caused damage or infection in the womb.

· unclean conditions when an IUD is put in that caused an infection.

· problems from an operation of the vagina, womb, tubes, or ovaries.

2. She does not produce an egg (no ovulation). This can be because the body does not make enough of the needed hormones at the right time. If her monthly bleedings are less than 25 days apart, or more than 35 days apart, she may have a problem with ovulation.

Sometimes a woman does not produce eggs if she loses weight very quickly, or if she is too fat.

3. She has growths in her womb (fibroids). Fibroids can prevent conception or make it difficult to carry the pregnancy.

4. Illnesses such as diabetes, tuberculosis, and malaria can also hurt a woman’s fertility.

Family Planning Is Safe


Family planning methods are often blamed for infertility. But family planning methods (other than sterilization) do not cause infertility except in some cases when an IUD has not been put in correctly and causes an infection in the womb or tubes. For more information, see the chapter on “Family Planning”.